Friday, October 28, 2011

World War Z by Max Brooks

World War Z
Max Brooks

From Goodreads: The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.

I had some trouble getting through this book, but it's not because I was bored. Think complete opposite end of the spectrum. Something about this story was so grimly compelling that I had to take a break because it was a little too real. Testimony from a melange of sources painted a stark picture of the course of "World War Z" (in which humanity overcomes a zombie outbreak). There were times when I actually felt physically ill from reading what the survivors had to do to get through the zombie apocalypse. (Cannibalism. I hate cannibalism.)

If you read this book, don't go into it expecting a regular novel, because it doesn't even pretend to be that. The premise of the book is that a UN investigator is writing a report about how humanity was able to defeat the zombies, and part of it involves interviewing various people from around the world about their experiences during World War Z. This makes for less of a cohesive storyline and more of the kind of book you might read in a college class (except way more exciting).

"But Kate," you say, "didn't you complain just yesterday about a book that had too many different perspectives?" The short answer is yes, but that's irrelevant. The long answer is that different rules apply to different genres. The way World War Z is written is so unique (at least as far as I know) that it's hard to find any sort of rules that might apply to it. The setup works really well here, I think, because it actually make it seem more realistic and factual, and therefore more rather than less intense. But it's not for everyone. The's no protagonist, and while the zombies are technically the enemy, really the book is about the terrible price of victory, and yes, it's full of vivid atrocities. This book wasn't scary because of the monsters; it was terrifying because of what people had to do to stop them.

Brooks does an outstanding job imagining every detail of what a zombie war and its aftermath would look like, from political maneuvering to scientific inquiry, psychology to filmmaking. The amount of ground this book covers is simply amazing, and what's even more impressive (and horrifying) is that it seems so possible - that if there really were a zombie outbreak, this could actually happen. World War Z is definitely not a light read, but it is very much worth it.

(I'm forgoing my normal sub-ratings because this book wasn't really constructed in a normal way.)
Overall: 4 cupcakes

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